Shanghai’s smallest boutique brewery, Mythology, offered us a selection of their fare, some commercially available, others still in the developmental stage. We were already fans of their festival favourite, Ginger Gemini Blonde Ale, so it didn’t take much taste-bud twisting. A brave team of beer drinkers (and one lady who admits to preferring a gin and tonic) took the challenge to see what should be on tap across Shanghai and what needs to be thrown out with the swill.
Your intrepid note taker forgot to ascribe names to the notes he scribbled, and as no-one could agree who said what the next day (the tasting continued late into the night in a variety of locations), I have collated the general consensus into a paragraph for each beer.
We decided to go from what we thought would be the lightest to the heaviest.
- Plan B – lime and basil IPA, 5% abv. An amazing bouquet of basil hits the nose as soon as you raise your glass. Close your eyes and you’re lying back in a herb garden in the spring, and fuck the weeding, you’re holding a beer instead! Our Thai contingent swore it was brewed from stir fried minced pork with holy basil. There was a good taste of basil too, overlaying a very light IPA, with a hint of slightly bitter lime zest. An excellent summer drink you could happily knock back all afternoon, or quaff with any fish dish while easing your sunburn on a Thai beach. There was a suggestion that it could be even better if the lime flavour was a little more pronounced with a touch of sweetness.
- Langon Miso Lager – Bavarian lager with dragon-eye fruit and white miso 5% abv. There is more than a touch of oriental exoticism to this one. I’m lying in an opium den while a qipao clad concubine tickles my taste buds as she feeds me forbidden, unfamiliar fruit. No I’m not, I’m in my mate’s flat that smells of last night’s burnt lasagne. Let me bury my face in the beer again and escape! Some of the fruity sweetness on the nose continues into the flavour, but less that might be expected. It’s a clean, tasty lager at the front that leaves an aftertaste of dragon eye fruit. I don’t get much miso. But maybe I don’t know what it tastes like so I’m not recognising it. One of us felt the sharpness of white miso worked to counter the sweetness of the fruit and keep it well-balanced. Whatever. Another great summer pint. Come on, Spring! You’re almost here!
- Juniper Saison – juniper berry, red peppercorn, orange peel and coriander 5.7% abv. Another great nose – if the brewing fails, Mythology could become parfumiers. I get dark chocolate with orange peel – maybe that fabulous Lindt one I can never find here with slivers of toasted almond. Others get the peppercorn aroma mixed with orange. Less successful on the flavour though. There is a medicinal hint to the taste, like when your mum smeared your grazed knees with Sudocrem when you fell off the swings trying to show off to that cute neighbour you had a crush on. Which raises the question, which of us weirdos was licking the Sudocrem off our grazed knees? Ah no, it’s the taste of how it smelt apparently. Glad that’s cleared up. And maybe that’s what a Saison is meant to taste like, whatever one is. Whatever your take on antiseptic lotions, there is definitely a taste of peppercorn and lime which is interesting and not unpleasant. I’d try it again, but it’s not a beer I’d keep ordering all night.
- Enenra Myth Rauchbier – cherrywood smoked lager 6.3% abv. Firstly, some market research should be carried out on the name. If you’re going to call a product Enema, it should have certain qualities. Oh, it isn’t called Enema? OK. I’ll start again. I’ve never had a beer quite like this. We once ordered a ‘smoky ale’ that tasted like chewing on a burnt bacon sandwich with barbecue sauce. I quite liked it and finished everyone’s, as no-one else could drink it. This is smoky, but nothing like that. There’s an almost citrus tartness to both the nose and the palette. You know those red tins of smoked paprika? La Chinata? Definitely a hint of that. Fiery flamenco music on a hot night in Madrid with chorizo grilled over a wood stove. This was the favourite of half the tasters. NB: Enenra is a Japanese Yokai ghost who appears as smoke. A Rauchbier is a German beer made from green malts that are dried over an open fire of beechwood.
- Carrot Cake Christmas Ale – Burton on Trent brown ale with nutmeg, cinnamon, chestnuts, caple and vanilla 5.0% abv. This was the most disappointing. We all expected a rich, heavy ale with a slightly sweet, cakey flavour brimming over with accents of all those lovely Christmas spices. It was rather thin with a slightly sour hint of raw carrot, but no sweet, heavy, spicy, full-fat cake dough hit. Perhaps it was spoiled by our expectations more than the contents – like when you unwrap the cuboid play-station-shaped Christmas gift to find a nice, fat revision textbook.
- She Devil – Shandong cherry in a strong Belgian Aae 9.2% abv. Our gin drinker nodded sagely and said, ‘This certainly tastes like beer.’ Aged for a year, this is a tasty, full bodied, Rembrandt-nude-in-a-red-velvet-stole of a beer, but definitely beer. There is a waft of the cherry in the nose, and a tart aftertaste, but the Belgian ale has a strong enough flavour in itself to soak up most of the fruit. None-the-less, a satisfying draft that hides its strength in complex, rich flavour.
- Zhu Long Red Forest Oatmeal Stout – stout with dragon fruit, figs and vanilla 7.0% abv. Another rich, winter brew to sup by an open fire, wrapped in furs with your Wildling beside you, as the snow falls outside and the White Walkers roam the barren moors. However, like the She Devil, the taste of stout overwhelms the subtle dragon fruit, figs and vanilla which I’d have liked to roam more freely over my palette.
Daryl Bates started Mythology during last year’s lock down in his Laoximen apartment. An enthusiastic amateur brewer, he saw the announcement for a summer beer brewing competition and became a contestant. After encouragement from the Goose Island and Boxing Cat brewers, who suggested he produced it on a commercial scale, he set up a small business. The brand is almost a year old and Daryl makes 4-5 experimental batches of beers a month, sold mainly through his WeChat account – search Mythology Brewing or Legends of Ale in WeChat, or contact Daryl directly, WeChat id: darylstar.
“I make small, limited edition batches from fresh domestic ingredients only. No syrups or artificial flavors and no pasteurization. Always fresh, always delicious and hopefully always interesting.”